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Artificial Or Real Christmas Trees, Which Are Better?

Artificial Or Real Christmas Trees, Which Are Better?

Are you looking to buy a new Christmas tree this year? Wondering if you should buy a real Christmas tree or an artificial one? This article looks at the pros and cons of each option and asks that eternal seasonal question, which is better, a real or an artificial Christmas tree?

Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a good old tree. Many of our childhood memories involve sitting under one opening our presents, of experiencing that excitement and anticipation as it finally went up signaling the start of Christmas itself, or even wrapping that old tinsel around it and carefully adding the ornaments!  

Christmas trees are a tradition that dates back many centuries in Britain, the 16th Century to be exact, but really became popular in England in 1846 when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were photographed in front of one. This upheld a much more ancient tradition in Britain and Europe where people would honour the winter solstice by decorating their homes with evergreens. 

Christmas trees have been around for a very long time, but in recent years as artificial trees became increasingly popular, and especially now that modern, good quality trees are almost indistinguishable from the real thing unless you get up close, many families looking to buy a tree every year are faced with that same choice. Which is better? Real or artificial?

This article will look at both sides of the festive argument and give you all you need to know to make up your own mind on whether to by a real Christmas tree or an artificial tree.

Which type of tree looks better?

It is pretty obvious that everyone wants a good looking tree, right? It can be argued that what actually does look good is pretty subjective, but regardless of that fact Christmas trees are a symbol of Christmas, of joy, happiness and fond nostalgia, and no one wants a bad looking one, but do real trees really look any better than artificial ones?

The truth is that no, they don’t. Superficially at least there is very little difference between the two. Sure, if you compared the cheap plastic ones of the 1970s to a huge, natural fir tree there wouldn’t be much of a contest, but modern quality artificial trees are almost indistinguishable from the real thing unless you get up close and touch them, and even then it is a hard difference to spot. 

Many modern artificial trees like this 8 ft Colorado Spruce or this North Valley Spruce genuinely wouldn’t look out of place in a forest surrounded by natural trees of the same type, and when tinsel and decorations are added, they are as beautiful as any real tree.

The one slight advantage artificial trees do have over real ones, depending on your taste of course, is uniformity. Some people may like the quirky nature of a real tree, where all the branches aren’t exactly the same, where the shape is just that little bit more as nature intended. That’s great, if that is what you like. Artificial trees however do have that symmetrical, eye pleasing shape.

But there is one thing an artificial tree can never do better than a real one, and that is the smell. For many people that fresh, pine smell of a real Christmas tree is as much a sensory hit of pure nostalgic joy as the first time you hear ‘It’s Chriiistmaaaas’ bellowed out on the radio every year!

Looks wise though, there really is no difference.


Now to many people this isn’t really an issue at all, but to some the smell of a real Christmas tree is as quintessential as hearing Mariah Carey or eating a mince pie. The simple fact is real trees do smell better than artificial ones. Smell is a very powerful sense, and if someone has grown up with that fresh, natural fragrance then they will associate it with Christmas, and that is something artificial trees cannot compete with. You could always hang a pine scented car freshener from it, but it will never be the same.

Shelf life.

Artificial trees do look and smell great, but their biggest problem is that they really don’t last long at all, and you have to be really careful with your timing to make sure they look their best all the way through the festive season. Putting a real tree up a week or two before Christmas itself means that it will most likely last through to New Years, but may start to look a little tired by then. Putting it up any earlier than that and you risk having a tired looking tree just as Christmas gets going.

Artificial trees on the other hand last forever and they always look the same! So if you have a penchant for putting your decorations the second the supermarkets wheel out the tins of Quality Street in September, and you wait until half way through January to take them down, then you are guaranteed to have a tree that looks fantastic throughout. 

That leads on to the next point very neatly. 


In terms of actual upfront cost there isn’t all that much difference. Depending on how much you want to spend and what your tastes are you can get both real and artificial trees to suit all budgets, but in very general terms artificial trees can sometimes be a little bit more expensive to buy upfront.

This tiny little increase in cost is dwarfed however by the fact that with artificial trees you only ever have to buy one. That’s it. Artificial trees really can last a lifetime if they are well looked after and cared for, with the average lifespan being at least 10 years. 

Real trees on the other hand have to be bought brand new every single year, and that can get expensive if you ever need to tighten the belt a little. 


If convenience is a big consideration for you then this is one category where artificial trees are miles ahead of real ones. To put it very bluntly you don’t have to go through the hassle of going out and buying a brand new one every year when you can simply pull your usual one out of the attic at the same time as your decorations. You don’t have to go through the hassle of making sure it is potted correctly and neatly or watered regularly, all you have to do is unfold the metal stand and forget about it! Pre lit trees save you the bother of untangling those knots of lights and stringing them up, and who needs the bother of having to brush or hoover up all of those fallen pine needles constantly? Artificial trees are just more convenient, there is no arguing with that. 


This is another factor that is almost entirely dependent on your personal circumstances, but is something that should be considered, especially if you have very little - if any - storage space in your home. 

Artificial trees are extremely convenient, but the fact is once they are all folded down and packed away, they can still be quite bulky, especially if you have one that is over six foot. This means that you will need somewhere to store it. That of course means that if you don’t have much space, then this will be a problem. It also means that you should consider how you store it, as simply putting the tree back in its own box is fine, but getting a large, secure storage box or bag is a much better option as it will prolong the life of your tree significantly.

Real trees of course don’t have any of these issues, they can simply be recycled.

Fire safety.

It is important to note that in terms of fire safety both real and artificial trees are very safe. The risk of fire in most normal circumstances is very low either way, so this is not meant to instill fear or worry in any way shape or form, but there is a slightly raised risk of fire from real trees with dried needles that haven’t had enough water. Many artificial trees are made from materials that are fire retardant, so aren’t as flammable as well, what is essentially firewood. This doesn’t mean you should still not be careful and check that all wiring on lights and on pre lit trees is in good working order, but an artificial tree will reduce the risk at least a little if the worst does happen. 

Allergy considerations.

If you have allergies or conditions such as Asthma that can sometimes be triggered by real trees, then artificial trees really are your only choice. Provided you keep the tree dust free and clean, they are essentially hypoallergenic. This won’t be a consideration for the absolute majority of people, but for the small percentage who do suffer, artificial trees can be a lifesaver.

The environment.

Everyone wants to take care of the environment and be ecologically conscious, that is pretty much a given now and the prevailing wisdom is that real trees are good, and artificial trees are bad, but this simplistic view isn’t entirely true. 

Yes, in very general terms a real trees are good for the environment because they are well, real. That means they are provided naturally, require no manufacturing process and are 100% recyclable. Up to a point of course. 

Once you get past the fact that you are actually chopping down a real tree for what is essentially a month long celebration, real trees are in general terms fairly environmentally friendly, providing that certain conditions are met of course. First of all they have to be purchased from a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or ‘Grown in Britain’ certified dealership, as then you will be assured that for every tree cut down another one is planted, so using a tree is at least sustainable. Although remember that it can take a decade or more for a tree to reach six foot. Secondly, there is still at least a partial manufacturing process involved in the wrapping and distribution of the trees, especially if they are bought from large supermarkets or chain garden centres. There are ways to minimise this, if you make sure you buy a tree that is grown as locally as possible, buy from a local farmer or even grow your own that can be taken outside and replanted every year, if of course you want to go through that hassle. 

After all that you still have to dispose of it correctly to make a real tree environmentally friendly too, which means chipping it into mulch and using it as part of a compost. Most real trees simply end up on a landfill every year, which negates any positive impact it has.  

In general terms real trees are very environmentally friendly, but it isn’t as clear cut as some make out.

On the other hand, artificial trees aren’t good for the environment at all. Well, maybe superficially at least. They are made of plastic and other materials that are mostly non recyclable and have a huge impact from the manufacturing process alone. It is as simple as that, right? Not quite. 

Most people who buy artificial trees do so with the intention of keeping them for many years. According to both the American Christmas Tree Association and The British Christmas Tree Growers Association people would have to keep an artificial Christmas tree for several years, at least eight or nine according to some sources, to negate any harmful impact of the manufacturing process. 

Well that is great news, since the average lifespan of an artificial Christmas tree is at least ten years, and with a well cared for and maintained, good quality tree potentially able to last a lifetime, the vast majority of people are providing a net benefit to the environment.

So it would seem that from an environmental point of view, both real and artificial Christmas trees are as good as each other! 

Wanting to be eco friendly with your tree is a noble goal, but it really isn’t as clear cut as is always made out.

At the end of the day which tree you choose is entirely down to you based on what you want and your own needs and preferences, there is no right or wrong decision here. But at least if you are still trying to make your mind up at least this article will help give you all the facts and information you need. If you do decide on an artificial tree, then you can check out our full range here.